Now Luck still throws from something of a low-rider crouch, without much style or flair. I see no Elway or Favre or Marino in his game -- no wow factor. While his teammates all seem to love him -- how could they not? -- I don't see dynamic leadership. I see consistently, solidly unspectacular.
This season, Luck has thrown for 300 or more yards only three times -- all spectacular losses, 38-8 to St. Louis at home, 24-20 to Miami at home (when Ryan Tannehill outplayed Luck) and 42-28 at Cincinnati.
Peyton Manning, the Colts' legend replaced by Luck, has thrown for 300 or more 12 times this season, winning 11. His only loss? Naturally, his wildly anticipated return to the House That He Built in Indy. That Sunday night, Peyton threw for 386, three touchdowns and an interception. Luck: 228, three touchdowns, no interceptions.
At his best, Luck has turned into more of a Pro Bowl game manager. At his best -- and worst -- he's actually more Eli than Peyton. Like the Manning brothers, Luck grew up the son of a former NFL quarterback (Oliver Luck played for the Houston Oilers from 1982 to '86). But like Eli, Andrew has an unsinkable, almost oblivious confidence. High football IQ but no ability to remember mistakes. Luck knows he was born to play QB, so if he screws up, so what, he just shrugs and keeps playing, as Kansas City will attest.
Peyton seems keenly aware of the moment and its historical perspective. Eli and Luck sometimes appear to forget where they are, whom they're playing against and what the stakes are. They just keep playing, as Eli did twice to Tom Brady's everlasting torment in Super Bowls against the Patriots.
But Luck will let his pedigree get the better of him -- he will occasionally go Eli and try something he shouldn't. In the past two seasons, he has had four three-interception games in the regular season, second-most in the NFL to … Eli, with six. Last season, his rookie year, Luck had the NFL's second-most turnovers, 23, just three fewer than Mark "Butt Fumble" Sanchez. At New England last year, Luck threw two interceptions returned for touchdowns and lost a fumble at his 24 that Brady immediately turned into the break-it-open touchdown. Patriots, 59-24.
I doubt Luck has lost a second's sleep this week dwelling on last season's nightmare in Foxborough, Mass. Back on that field for a playoff game this Saturday night, Luck is just as likely to outplay Brady as he is to throw the same interceptions he did last Saturday against the Chiefs.
The kid can be as hard to figure as his team. Not only did the Colts beat AFC top seed Denver 39-33, but they thoroughly whipped the 49ers in San Francisco, 27-7, and Luck played his best game as a pro in a comeback win at home over NFC top seed Seattle, 34-28.
Luck now has nine fourth-quarter comebacks and 11 game-winning drives -- hence "Michael Jordan." Yet nearly all are of the slow, steady variety. Against Seattle, the Colts took the lead for good at 31-28 after a 14-play, 86-yard drive produced a touchdown (and two-point conversion) with 8 minutes, 55 seconds left. Yes, the Colts' defense still had to stop Russell Wilson and Co. twice more to preserve Luck's "Jordanesque" heroics.